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Tutorial: Smoke forecasting in Yosemite & the High Sierra

By Andrew Skurka / September 16, 2020 /

For five of the past eight years, we’ve guided trips in Yosemite or Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks in September. Wildfires have occasionally affected us — like with trail closures and hazy air — but we’ve typically found ideal conditions: comfortable days and crisp nights, no bugs, and low backcountry traffic. September 2020 has presented us…

Tutorial: Plan a backpacking trip in these 7 steps

By Andrew Skurka / May 11, 2020 /

This year I will plan twenty-nine backpacking trips. They are scheduled June through October, run three to seven days, and are scattered throughout North America in the high desert, eastern woodlands, mountain West, and Alaska. In addition, I will also ready our 240+ clients, who are of mixed ages, genders, fitness, and experience. To pull…

Should I stay home or can I go? Navigating Covid-19 restrictions

By Andrew Skurka / May 8, 2020 /

Based on what we currently know about Covid-19 and on the best practices that you plan to follow, you may deem the risk of contracting or spreading Covid-19 acceptably low. And, therefore, you want to start your trip. I would generally concur with you: thoughtful behavior in a backcountry setting — which has constant air…

New normal: How can Covid-19 risk in the backcountry be minimized?

By Andrew Skurka / May 7, 2020 /

In 2020 I’m hopeful that my personal and guided backpacking trips will take place. But it won’t be business as usual — on both private and commercial outings, individual behaviors and program protocols must reflect the new risk of Covid-19. The preceding post is an objective assessment of this risk, and it serves as a…

Covid-19: What’s the objective risk to backcountry travelers?

By Andrew Skurka / May 5, 2020 /

To mitigate a risk, it’s essential to first understand it. For example, if I were planning to hike the John Muir Trail/PCT in the early-season, I’d want to know about hazardous creek crossings. And if I was planning to drink water from natural sources on that trip, I would want to be familiar with the…

Backcountry best practices in the coronavirus era

By Andrew Skurka / May 5, 2020 /

The novel coronavirus has upended life as we once knew it. With therapeutic treatments and vaccines, we’ll revert to our old normal eventually, but in the meantime we’ll have to learn to live with it — How can we still work and play without compromising our own safety or that of our family, friends and…

8-week course: How to plan your first trip, next trip, or dream trip

By Andrew Skurka / April 20, 2020 /

Successful backpacking trips are typically planned, not improvised. A thoughtful approach towards gear, food, maps, permits, travel, fitness, and skills will increase your safety margin and trip quality, and will actually create more potential for adventure — by solving foreseeable problems beforehand, you can respond fully to the true unknowns. Can you plan all aspects…

Will I encounter snow? New snow survey tool

By Andrew Skurka / December 27, 2019 /

In early-December an alumnus, Rud Platt, shared with me a project that he’d been working on, snowEvaluator. Its chief function is creating snow coverage maps, i.e. where there is snow, or where there was snow on specific dates in the past. If you’ve ever been uncertain about whether you’ll encounter snow on an upcoming backpacking…

New snowpack tool: Satellite imagery for CalTopo + Gaia GPS

By Andrew Skurka / July 3, 2019 /

The peak backpacking season is almost here, and many backpackers with planned trips in the Mountain West are asking the same question: “What is the current state of the snowpack?” This is especially the case in areas that had wet winters and springs, notably the High Sierra, Colorado, and Wyoming. Historically, I’ve relied on SNOTEL…

Snowpocalypse 2019: Expected “summer” conditions in the High Sierra & southern Rockies

By Andrew Skurka / March 28, 2019 /

California, Oregon, Nevada, and the Four Corners states have been drenched this winter, with snowpacks now about 150 percent of their normals. If you have scheduled backpacking trips in the High Sierra or southern Rockies in June or July, and to a lesser degree August, here is some reading for you: 1. Today on my…